Here are two award winning films you’ve probably never heard of. Both are excellent films that present current and future problems we must face.
Apparently we still haven’t learned anything about the freedoms we guarantee our citizens. Many Americans still kill, defame, distrust, and hate those members of our society who are non-white, even though we are all humans and part of the same human family. If we can’t figure out how to live peacefully with our neighbors, how are we going to face the realities of declining job markets that will possibly one day reduce most of us to a meaningless existence? Two films show us the steps we need to take to lead us away from the same old, same old and into a new world we need to explore together.
A recent PEW research survey “shows that the Black population in America has increased by 29 percent since 2000, with 46.8 million people identifying themselves as Black in 2019. Black people still make up roughly 14 percent of the overall U.S. population, but the rise in number of people who say they are Black is notable for how it reflects the increasing nuances in America’s growing Black community.” – yahoo.com/lifestyle/data-proves-black-people-america-213000441.html
We can’t be turning people black, so we might assume that even with what was once a stigma of color, perhaps we are seeing joy and acceptance of their color. Which is wonderful, except for the fact that we are almost daily seeing the increasing ugliness of white hatred emerging.
Watch the trailer for Burden – imdb.com/video/vi1867824921
In the film Burden, we see a young veteran. Mike Burden, from a small southern town played by Garrett Hedlund. He returns home and works as a collection man for people who are behind on their rental payments for home products like televisions. He works for his godfather Tom Griffin (Popular British character actor Tom Wilkinson), who is the head of the local chapter of the KKK. Burden does what he’s told to do from threatening people to beating people up. When Griffin decides to celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of the Ku Klux Klan by creating a museum from an old theatre in their South Carolina town trouble begins brewing.
A church pastor, the idealistic Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker) rallies the Black people of the town. Burden falls in love with a young mother whose child has a Black friend he play with. This is no different from the way Burden grew up. He takes the two boys fishing. Reverend Kennedy holds rallies in front of the museum and stirs up his people so much that Griffin orders Burden to shoot Kennedy, but Burden just can’t do it. His stand and the resulting rift between him and his godfather and the Black community is the conundrum. There appears to be no clear or right answer to the problem. This film is based on a true story. All three main characters do a fantastic job in their parts, but the guiding lights are the Reverend’s wife and Burden’s girl friend. Ah, yes . . . reality. A friendly review points out the three main themes of the film: Courage, Love, and Redemption.
Mike Burden: [to Reverend Kennedy] Sir, if I call you my enemy, I’ll walk through Heaven and I will punch God just to get to you. If I call you my friend, I’ll walk through Hell and I’ll slap the devil for you.
Over the last fifty years we have seen our once proud and mighty factory industries cease production and become known as the Rust Belt. Working Man tells the story of the closure of the last factory in a Midwest town. The employees work their last day and get their papers and checks. The factory goes dark and the doors are all locked . . . almost. Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) blocks a side door and leaves for home just like every other employee.
Watch the trailer for Working Man – imdb.com/video/vi3870146073
Allery has no other life. His wife (Talia Shire) is almost a non-entity . . . almost. Rising the next morning he packs his lunch and fills his thermos and returns to work walking past friends in their houses with nothing to do. The factory had become his life. He can’t operate the machines and so he merely tidies up and cleans, takes his breaks, and leaves on time just like he’s done for decades. His friends and neighbors speak to him as he passes on the street and continues each day back and forth to the factory. Soon a friend joins him and then others do, too. The factory is humming and producing until management stops them.
I see their work ethic as it becomes an allegory about real-world issues of what happens when AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robots take over all aspects of manufacturing and people have little or nothing to do. Eventually, many say we will still be paid so that the economy maintains and grows. Will we be useless? Will we all be in the same boat? What is the future of work? Allery and his fellow workers fight the good fight, but will they prevail? The film would make a great conversation movie at The Grand Cinema, in downtown Tacoma, with a discussion afterward about work and human production. Will we be involved at all in our world, or merely walking around with our thermos and lunch pail?
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.